Monday, 15 February 2016

DEADPOOL Score Review

Check it out... if you adored the film and want a souvenir containing various songs needle-dropped into the film.

Skip it... if you have a greater interest in Tom Holkenborg’s original score than you do in the pop and rap classics, as it’s a basically functional score that fails to offer any highlights, display narrative cohesion, or even elicit rage over its 45 minutes on album.


For many years, actor Ryan Reynolds has longed to play Deadpool; the smarmy, fourth wall breaking Marvel superhero. He finally got his chance in 2009 in X-Men Origins: Wolverine…only for him to have his mouth sewn shut. Not a great way to portray the “Merc with the Mouth.” Reynolds lobbied hard to redeem himself with a film loyal to the character’s R-rated, wisecracking, satirical origins. Given the positive buzz, high box office grosses, and already guaranteed sequel for Deadpool, Reynolds and director Tim Miller appear to have succeeded.

Naturally, a self-aware film like Deadpool is bound to have numerous pop culture references, leaving wide open doors for placement of pre-existing music. Among the songs included in the album are a couple rap songs: Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop” and “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” by DMX, both of which featured heavily in the film’s marketing. The album opens and closes with a couple of 80s love ballads: “Angel of the Morning” by Juice Newton, and George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” which delightfully take the cheesiness factor to the extreme. If you’re an uncultured young person like me, you may not recognize the title of the song, but I assure you, you’ll recognize it the moment you hear the saxy opening bar. Also included is Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girls,” stretching the film’s musical references all the way back to the 60s, as well as “Deadpool Rap,” written by a group called Teamheadkick, which is…interesting. The “Deadpool Rap” notwithstanding, the songs are a varied but entertaining bunch, almost evoking the music for Quentin Tarantino films in their range of genres and their almost silly entertainment value.

The score, however, leaves much to be desired. The music was composed by Tom Holkenborg, who has contributed to a number of superhero films (The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, both Man of Steel and its upcoming sequel), and seemingly has taken inspiration from the genre, referring to himself both by his real name and his stage name Junkie XL. Holkenborg has skyrocketed into the public eye as of late, working on numerous projects last year, including critical darling Mad Max: Fury Road and the Whitey Bulger biopic Black Mass. While I had mixed feelings over Mad Max’s score, I found more to appreciate from Black Mass, and held it as a sign of the young composer’s development. However, Deadpool shows no such continuation, and instead comes off as something Holkenborg dashed off in between work on larger films.

The score opens promisingly in “Maximum Effort,” in which retro-sounding electronics bounce around schizophrenically before introducing the main theme. Well, it’s sort of a theme. It’s really just the opening chords of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” played with the same sound effects from the opening of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It’s simplistic, and it’s likely to give many people headaches from its obnoxiousness, but it looks like a gem once you get through the rest of the score.

The main theme receives little to no variation throughout the remaining 42 minutes, whilst much of the action music is bass-heavy pounding, alternately in a standard rock rhythm and sustained notes of weightiness. A hint of melodic and dramatic action arises near the end in “Going Commando,” only to be buried under layers of synthetic muck. “Let’s Try to Kill Each Other” attempts to bring back the classic string ostinati of mid-2000s Hans Zimmer, but at that point it’s too little, too late. A tepid love theme is introduced on the mid-range strings, first heard in “Back to Life,” where it just kinda sits there, slowly moving, lacking the overly melodramatic punch of Holkenborg’s “Many Mothers” cue from Mad Max. It reappears a couple of times, notably in “Four or Five Moments” and “A Face I Would Sit On,” the last two and arguably the best two cues on the album, simply for providing a respite from the bass region dissonance and percussion in favor of major-key optimism. In between the action and the pleasant harmonies are stretches of dull ambience that one barely notices and does little more than pad out the run-time. No attempt is made at thematic development, narrative flow, or addressing the personalities of the characters. Instead, Holkenborg primarily scores the action scenes, and he scores them completely straight. The closest thing to irony to be found in this music is the way the main theme echoes Osbourne and Jackson in style.

Now, I’m sure some people will argue, “It’s Deadpool, what did you expect? He’s a different kind of comic book character, he doesn’t need a big heroic theme!” And I’m not saying he does. But an effort could have been made to address the comedy of the character. Perhaps have a theme so over the top heroic that Deadpool makes fun of it in the film. Or have an action cue with distinct “Mickey Mousing” in it. There are X-Men in the film, why not drop a reference to John Ottman or Henry Jackman’s themes from previous X-Men films? Alan Silvestri did it in his last Night at the Museum score, and the result was hilarious. Comedy films, particularly films as self-aware and parodic as Deadpool can serve as a gold mine for taking the music of that genre and jacking the style up to the most hilarious extreme. Look to Elmer Bernstein’s score to Airplane! as a prime example. Let me remind you, the album closes with “Careless Whisper.” Surely a film that embraces corniness of that level warrants an original love theme as equally ridiculous in its schmaltziness. Instead, we have bare-bones, stock action music that relies on heavy-handed percussion, synthetic loops, and rhythmic propulsion to achieve its goal. It’s so blandly generic and nondescript that I almost wonder if that was Holkenborg’s attempt at parodying action movie music, creating a soundscape intentionally anonymous as a joke. If this happens to be the case, I missed the wink he slipped us.

I cannot in good faith recommend this score for anyone, but the songs are strong enough (and importantly, stylish enough) to carry the album. If you really enjoyed hearing those songs in the film, the album may be worth the buy. Just do some heavy editing, for Holkenborg has ceded The Merc with the Mouth’s musical voice to the likes of DMX, Salt-N-Pepa, and George Michael. You can purchase Deadpool on Amazon or iTunes, here and here.



Additional notes about release: as mentioned in the review above, a variety of songs are included on the album. They are listed on the track-list below.

Track Listing

1.Angel of the Morning (Juice Newton)4:12
2.Maximum Effort 2:08
3.Small Disruption1:12
4.Shoop (Salt-N-Pepa)4:08
5.Twelve Bullets2:50
6.Man In A Red Suit2:20
7.Liam Neeson Nightmares1:56
8.Calendar Girl (Neil Sedaka)2:37
9.The Punch Bowl5:55
10.Back To Life2:12
11.Every Time I See Her0:54
12.Deadpool Rap (Teamheadkick)3:25
13.Easy Angel2:31
14.Scrap Yard1:02
15.This Place Looks Sanitary6:50
16.Watership Down4:10
17.X Gon' Give It To Ya (DMX)3:37
18.Going Commando3:45
19.Let's Try To Kill Each Other1:00
20.Stupider When You Say It2:24
21.Four Or Five Moments0:54
22.A Face I Would Sit On3:07
23.Careless Whisper (WHAM!)5:02
Total Album Time:68:11